Delegates to a United Nations committee considering how the international community might approach negotiations to a ban on human cloning wrapped up their first-ever session today, adopting a final report on the “troubling and unethical” development in biotechnology.
“We went as far as we could in this Ad Hoc Committee at this time,” said Peter Tomka of Slovakia, the Chairman of the new UN Ad Hoc Committee on an International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings, at the end of the talks. He noted that the session, which heard briefings from experts in genetics and bioethics, had been educational for many participants. Attention had been focused on a number of issues involving important and fundamental policy, ethical and technical questions, he noted, but no particular conclusion had been reached.
The Committee’s final report, adopted following extensive discussions on the precise language to be used in describing the five-day proceedings, notes that there was general agreement that the reproductive cloning of human beings should be prohibited. The report also points out that some delegations sought an approach that would lead to a negotiating mandate on a universal ban on cloning humans, while others favoured a more comprehensive approach, and a mandate to also negotiate to ban cloning for therapeutic, experimental and research purposes.
In setting up the committee by adopting a resolution last December, the General Assembly said life sciences are opening prospects for health improvements, but termed current research on human cloning “an attack on the human dignity of the individual.”
The initiative for an international ban on human reproductive cloning was first proposed by France and Germany last August. They asserted that while only a small number of researchers or scientific institutions had the technical capacity to perform such operations, there was no doubt that the practice would have an impact on the entire human family. In response, they called for the treaty’s elaboration under UN auspices.